Building settled...floor jacking???

Hello all,

I am closing on a my first rehab this week! One thing that I have not had much experience with is trying to level the floors where the building has sagged in the middle. Its very apperant on the second floor unit. I have heard of people simply using a floor jack to jack up the house? What is the best way to do this? The basement is open and the beams exposed so that should make it easier. I do need to sister some of the support beams as there is some pre-existing termite damage.

My question is what is the best way to tackle this opportunity? Are there any DIY sources on this topic?

Thanks for your responses in advance.

OHlandlard / Doing my first rehab!

This could be a bigger mess than it appears. Houses don’t settle by sinking down in the middle. That’s called collapsing. Settling is also in regards to the foundation, not the wood/ steel structure itself. It’s impossible to give a perfect diagnosis without seeing the problem but my guess would be this place was never properly supported in the first place. If it was sinking more towards an exterior wall I’d say it was more termite damage than you know. If the problem was the exposed beams in the basement, the first floor would be just as bad and the entire house might be crooked. Sometimes if there are stairwells that run in the middle of the building, sinking will happen right around it. If you notice the floors all dipping towards the stairs, I’d say the floor joists are improperly supported.

I am closing on a my first rehab this week! One thing that I have not had much experience with is trying to level the floors where the building has sagged in the middle.

Are there any DIY sources on this topic?

You answered your own question, there are no DIY sources for first timers with no structural experience to deal with this on your own. Call in the pro’s before you close!

Another thing is, if you DO get it repaired, get some type of warranty on the workmanship. If you go through all the expenses, only to have it re-settle later, cracking all your sheetrock, etc., it will be more expenses down the road. I’m looking at a house with similar problems.

This is a two story duplex. There are actually cracks on either sides of the foundation (poured) that are in almost identical locations. The cracks are wider at the top making it appear as if the back of the house settled making a pivot point near the center of the house. The house is about 80 years old and from the dirt buildup and the non-cracked paint over the cracks there doesnt seem to be any active movement.

As far as the workmanship, this is one of the projects I was going to try to tackle myself, well with a little help from a partner. I am contracting some things out to reduce my holding time but not this project.

An interesting thing about this place…it went through a forclosure and while it was sitting empty, it was broken into and completely stripped of copper piping! Hey, the bank didnt have to do much for winterizing the place :slight_smile:


Oh yeah…I found this link after some searching around and making the post. Its always good to hear from some experience people who have dont this before though.

It sounds do-able if I take the time and take the necessary precautions. Worse case is that I leave it as is. I was just hoping to make it a little closer to level so that I can put down hardwood rather than the carpet again. And why not give it a shot since I will be doing work to sister some floor joists anyhow.


Stolen copper is nothing too unusual, happens a lot on jobsites around here. Seems a little much to do as a first project especially if you want to almost completely DIY. I hope you bought it cheap because this project sounds EXPENSIVE.

Its my first offical rehab yes, though the home repair is nothing new (there is always a new learning opportunity though). I did get it for about 44 cents on the dollar. The floor jacking is probably one of the biggest impact projects. The units are all basically cosmetic. The expensive costs are the systems… HVAC and plumbing (it will be a NEW old house). Estimated costs are under $20k which is all budgeted (with room for unforseen expenses). I plan on holding onto this property as well for rental and the market rents will support the note. I own the duplex next to this one so I am real familiar with the market. How convienent is that for maintenance calls!!!


Leveling the floors by either jacking up the joists or laying down a tapered subfloor doesn’t stablize the foundation. Vertical cracks aren’t always as serious as horizontal cracks, so that’s a good thing. The type of cracks you described could be more than settling. Depending on the way the joists run, the foundation wall might not be laterally supported in which case it the foundation would have to be stengthened. It could also be because the foundation walls are too thin for the load. If the second story was an addition, this could be the plausible explanation. If this property is on a hill and the cracks are indictative of the property almost falling down the hill, it would be a settlement issue in which case you’d have to pump concrete below the footings which is called “mud jacking”. If this were the case the cracks would be more diagonal and it would be called “differential settlement”. You could also use what’s called a “helical anchor” if this is on relatively flat land.

It’s still a possibility that these are just settlement cracks and are nothing more than cosemtic. If it’s severe, the gas, water, sewage lines along with the wiring might be stressed, another thing to be cautious about. I’d talk to local building inspectors, builders, septic tank people and neighbors to ask about the soil conditions in the area. If weak or expansive soil is common or the water table is high, it’s likely to be settlement. Hopefully this concrete is reinforced with rebar, or this problem gained 2 or 3 more digits to the price tag.

Look up something called “vertical shear”, depending on the size of the crack, this could mean nothing or you’d have to tear the house down.

Unless you feel confident solving this case like a CSI investigator, I’d highly recommend a structural engineer take a look before you put anything in ink.

I think you’re going to want a structural engineer report done.

I completely agree. Anytime the second or above floors are visible sinking usually means there is severe foundational issues with the house. I would have a structural engineer come in ASAP and tell you what the cause is; I’ve seen houses like what your describing cost over $75,000 just to correct the problem. Did you get a home inspection? I can’t believe a licensed inspector wouldn’t explain to you exactly how serious this problem could be.

With cracks- Vertical is generally okay, horizontal is bad and needs to be corrected immediately.

Since you’re going to be renting the property your not as concerned with this as you should be. If you do chose to refinance you should be aware that any Bank is going to notice the foundational issues. Be carefull; they can eat you alive and if you do choose to fix it get multiple quotes.

Just wondering of yalls expereince with this subject, I understand that when a foundation is repaired it has to be disclosed when the property sells. Have yall had many problems getting rid of the property if foundation repair has been done?

We’re still waiting to hear if you ever got a home insection. From the sounds of it, you probably didn’t bother because the bank usually doesn’t renegoitate the price if any serious problems are found although it does give you the option to walk away from your deposit.

Anyway it’s hard to tell without actually looking at it. It could be done on the cheap if you do it yourself, you just have to be careful you don’t create more problems than you solve.

I did have a friend do it, he did get the advice of several people before he did it and I think he did it right in his situation. First he did dig out the the basement and poured concrete footings that went down 4 feet. He did 4 feet because that’s the frost line in this area, your area may be more or less. He also made the footing really big as he wasn’t sure if he need 1x1 or 2x2 square feet footings. I think he went 18 inches wide and about 20-30 feet across from one end of the house to the other. I think the lally columns he used were about 8-10’ (one end of house was dug lower than the other). They were about $80-$100 each and he used about 15 of them. The jacks he got from Home Depot, they’re not car jacks, they’re steel support jacks with adjustable heights and you increase the height by turning a 1" screw with a wrench. Typically depending on the size of the supporting beam, you have lally columns every 6-8 feet. Most older houses don’t have that so the floors tend to sag in the middle. I think he also poured a 6" concrete floor and the whole job cost about 10k. You could probably do it for less as I think the price of the floor alone was about 3-4k in terms of concrete, gravel and labor.

Also once you jack the house up, it doesn’t really level the floors. Think of the sagging wood as being in a nice u shape. Once you jack up the middle, you now have two small uu shapes. Not as bad, but never as good as new. Also jacking up may crack plaster and there’s always the danger of moving pipes, electrical, gas lines, etc.

Anyway, sounds like you need more advice from people who really know what their doing. You can only learn so much from the internet.

Thanks to everyone for the responses, I wanted to post what has came of all this.

I did end up having a structural engineer take a look at the property and they provided an engineering report for a small fee of $250. From that I did have a little difficulty getting three quotes for the work to be done that was suggested. Many contractors wouldnt touch something like this simply because of the liability envolved.

In a nut shell, the existing support (originally 4 - 2x8’s put together were used which were all destroyed by termites was sistered by 1 - 2x8. Of course this was inadequate) was to replaced by an 8"x18 lb/sqft steel I-beam supported with a 4" column resting on a 2’x2’x8" concrete footer.

After finding a contractor that would perform this for a reasonable price, they completed the job in 2 days. The center sagging on 1st and 2nd floor is now noticeably less. However, doorways and perpindicular walls that rested on that support have seperation and in some spots buckled plaster and cracks varying in size from hairline to 1/4". Nothing that a little drywall and mudd/tape cant fix.

Overall this was another learning experience from getting my hands dirty. Fortunately there was a cushion built into my rehab funds that allowed for something like this and still allow me to be within budget. 1st unit is still on schedule to be rent ready my the start of March.

Learn from others opportunities, this has been a positive learning experience. If anyone has questions, please ask away.


What did the strucutral engineer say about the crack in the foundation?

How much did it cost to fix?

He mentioned the cracks in the report and suggested that they be fixed. He did confirm that these were not active cracks and did not make them to be a big concern. Caused from settlement typical to structures in the surrounding aea Suggested fix was using staple technique or epoxy injections.

Total bill for support installation was roughly $2400. Doing the math on materials and labor this held true to the 30% materials, 70% labor. My first quote was for 4k and the guy wanted to put a hole in the side of the foundation to feed the 18’ beam in from the outside. That guy was off his rocker!!

That may or may not have been the best price in the world…however this work was critical to being done quickly as it affected HVAC and electrical work to be done and I could live with that price.